Bem Le Hunte,  1st June 1983, by Boleslaw Lutoslawski

Former Fleet Street picture editor Alan Sparrow introduces this month’s image

Looking through the work of Boleslaw Lutoslawski one feels that the photographs are judging you as much as you are judging them. In portrait after portrait the eyes stare back at us as we survey them. His portraiture has an intriguing, stark style.

“Portraits” he says “are how a child looks at the world around them without preconception of how it should be, and when I take a portrait I am like a child without set ideas.

“It takes one hundred and eighty seconds for an image to reach its depth and contrast and during that time, out of nothingness, out of a rectangular, blank sheet, shapes slowly emerge, transformed by a chemical process into an intricate scene that I’d captured some time before in a fraction of a second.”

Bo Lutoslawski moved to London from his native Poland in 1980. His earlier years were spent studying films like Seven Samurai and learning about cinematography and photography. Before becoming a portrait photographer Lutoslawski studied filmmaking at Lodz Film School (1967–71) and art history at Jagiellonian University in Cracow (1971-76). He has lectured on film and photography at colleges and arts centres in the UK and Poland.

At 18 he passed an exam at the Film College in Łódź, Poland, and at 19 after participating in the students’ strikes in 1968 he was called to the Rector’s office and told that as an enemy of Socialist Poland he would never be allowed to make films in Poland.

“I was depressed, but after a sleepless night I understood that my only option to remain creative was to concentrate on photography. I figured out that this profession assured my independence, as long as I owned my own camera and paid for my film I could be truly independent. As a photographer, I was in charge of my own destiny. Cinematographers work for others, so they are not in charge of what they do.

“I worked as a photographer taking portraits of prominent Polish artists and writers throughout the 70’s.  I staged many solo exhibitions, my photos were published in newspapers, magazines, theatre programmes, on book covers, on sleeves for CDs, and my photographs were shown in films, and on TV, even billboards.”

The offer of an exhibition at the October Gallery in Holborn drew Bo to London and to eventually settle here. The list of people that posed for him is an impressive catalogue of the art scene in London from the eighties onward: Glenda Jackson, Tom Stoppard, Bill Brandt, Philip King, Ernst Gombrich, Peter Hall, Tambimuttu, George Martin, Marina Warner, Lucy Burge, Paloma Picasso, Helaine Blumenfeld, Richard Rogers, John Peel, Anthony Caro, Simon Callow, James Bonas were among those that agreed to sit before his lens. His work has appeared in The Independent, Vogue, Newsweek, Harpers and Queen, The Guardian and the Illustrated London News.

One of those who sat for Lutoslawski, Sir John Tusa, describes him as a “photographer with a deep insight into people and character, an extraordinary honesty, and a capacity to reveal the identity of his sitters”. Richard Avedon put it even more succinctly: these are “beautiful and strange photographs … full of deep feeling”.

His work, he says, “is a result from a moment of special affinity, a kind of spiritual kinship, between two different personalities – the photographer and sitter”.

This portrait of British-Indian globally published author Bem Le Hunte, whose third novel Elephants with Headlights  was published in March, grew out in the same alchemy, when unpredictable gestures, glances, movements come together in harmony.

Bo Lutoslawski now enjoys a relaxed lifestyle in Norfolk, England but still has a hunger to take pictures and Bo is available for commissions and can be contacted via Fleet Streets Finest. 

More work from Bo Lutoslawski can be seen at Fleet Streets Finest


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